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Provence and Cote d'Azur trip report - returned 23 October

This joins on to my Paris trip report that I posted 4 October...

After Paris, we spent just shy of 3 weeks in Provence & Cote d'Azur:
Arles - 2 nights
Saint-Remy-de-Provence - 8 nights (with day trips to Pont du Gard, Avignon, Gordes, Roussillon, Les Baux de Provence, Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, Fontane de Vaucluse, Aix-de-Provence, and a Cotes du Rhone villages wine tour)
Moustiers-Sainte-Marie - 3 nights
Cassis - 2 nights
Nice - 4 nights

  1. A lot less checking for the Passe Sanitaire in these locations. We stayed in 2 hotels, 1 chambre d'hote, and 2 AirBnB flats and none asked to see our passes. Less than half of restaurants asked.
  2. Very, very few American tourists. Mostly French from other parts of the country and a lot of German, a handful of other European nationalities. It was a very good time to be there as it really wasn't that crowded and the weather was gorgeous.
  3. Rarely saw anyone wearing a mask outside, but always inside.
  4. Some of the RS recommended restaurants were closed and others had differing hours, one in Gordes had changed ownership over a year ago and has a different name (I used the Provence book published January 2021). Some of the attractions had higher prices and/or different hours too. So if there's a particular place you're interested in, double check ahead of time.
  5. For the testing for the return home, I purchased the Delta recommended Ellume test kits 1 week before our departure and packed those, making appointments for the video observation for 3 days before our departure. Upon beginning the appointment I was informed that our test kits had been recalled and we couldn't use them. Ellume will replace the test kits for free but no refund, and no refund on the video observation either. So that is completely maddening. We ended up going to the small pharmacy by the opera in Nice. We went in at about 10:00 am and there was no wait, walked right in. We asked if we could get the results printed as well (standard is just electronic issuance) and the pharmacist was very kind and agreed to print them for us. We received the results electronically and returned to the pharmacy about 30 minutes after our appointment and got the printouts. I think what was really helpful is that the printout was in French and so this made the experience easier at the airport as the lady at the check-in desk didn't speak English that well. Had we done the Ellume test as planned, the information would have been in English and that may have presented some issues at check-in. So my advice is don't listen to the airline and just get the test done locally.
  6. We flew out of Nice with a 6:30a flight via KLM, connecting to Delta in AMS. Check in was a breeze - asked for the passe sanitaire, proof of negative test, and passport (of course) and all was good to go. The connection in AMS was a nightmare - Delta had a major system glitch the night before and changed the plane for our flight so had to re-ticket and re-seat every passenger at the gate. Flight was delayed by 1 1/2 hours as a result and it was complete chaos at the gate, many passengers missed connecting flights on the other end. So my advice in my first post remains the same, expect issues with your flights right now and just be glad if you don't have any.
  7. No customs form required for US entry, which was a surprise. We last traveled internationally in 2019 (like most people) and it was required then so not sure when that changed. They also didn't even ask for our passports, just facial scan and fingerprints.

I'll do a separate post in the reviews forum with some recommendations and also places to avoid.

Posted by
29 posts

good morning, we need some advice. We are planning a 14 day trip next September. We want to do Paris and then the Cote D'Azur., Hopefully hit Loire Valley, Salat, Avignon, Provence on the way down. Can't seem to fit Normandy or Mont St Michel this time.

We had to cancel our trip this year, which include a 7 day Viking River cruise from Lyon to Avignon (already booked full next year). We would like to spend a week along the coast staying in Eze at our current choice Chateau de la Chevre d'Or and use that as our base for trip up and down the coast. Maybe 5 days there. We would like your thoughts
4 days in Paris, with Giverney and Versailles side trips
2 days Loire valley
2 days Avignon
5 days Eze


Posted by
6743 posts

Copperhead, thanks for your trip report.

Cpo, you’ll want to start a new thread with your question so that people will see it and respond.

Posted by
25 posts

To add to the conversation...we are in Avignon now. We have been asked for our PS everywhere including small cafes, with the exception of a couple of very small cafes. This morning we popped into a Monoprix and were not asked.
It's a mixed bag re masks outside.

Yesterday we were in Arles and there was a sign at the gates indicating masks were needed in city center, but again it was mixed.

Everyone on trains and at stations masked.

As someone mentioned, American tourists seem to be the exception.

Posted by
259 posts

Stores like Monoprix has never asked for the pass sanitaire. Only the biggest shopping mall require that (and not even the medium sized shopping malls).

Posted by
7729 posts

And if the mall contains a supermarket, such as the Monoprix in my neighborhood mall, the mall is exempt from the Pass requirement if declared by the departmental government.

Posted by
84 posts

@CPO - agree you should start a new post with your question if you want more responses. As the OP on this one, my two cents...

I think your itinerary depends on what you enjoy doing and what you really want to accomplish. I know time is limited but I try to travel with the mentality that I will go back so I don't try to see and do everything in one trip. This was our itinerary:
- 4 nights in Paris
2 nights Arles (it's only 25 minutes - by car from our next destination)
- 8 nights Saint-Remy-de-Provence (day trips to Gordes, Roussillon, Pont Du Gard, Avignon, isle Sur La Sorgue, Fontaine-de-Vaucluse, a full day wine tour, and also stopped at Les Baux on the way to St Remy)
- 3 nights Moustiers-Sainte-Marie (spent time hiking Gorges du Verdon here)
- 2 nights Cassis (day tripped through Aix en Provence on the way here)
- 4 nights Nice (day tripped through Cannes on way here and then took 1 day trip to Villefranche-Sur-Mer)

Have you been to Paris before? If not, 4 nights is really not enough. That means you will only have 3 days there really because your first day will be arriving and you will be very tired and not able to accomplish much. If you do side trips to Giverny and Versailles those are full days each so now you're looking at 1 day to spend in Paris. We did 4 nights there on this trip because I've been there twice before and thought that would be sufficient, but my husband hasn't and there was a lot he wanted to see (which seemed to expand the more he did see). We found it wasn't enough - very packed days, wanted to do more, and we didn't take any day trips out.

2 nights in Loire Valley and Avignon is slim as well. Figure 1 day for travel to the destination and that leaves you 1 day to explore and experience the area. If you're going to Loire to see castles know you'll only have time to see 1 in a day, maybe 2 if you get up really early and rush it. They are far apart so a lot of driving and very big estates (especially Chambord) which take a lot of time to walk.

Same thought with Avignon. If you want to see the surrounding countryside, you won't have enough time. You'll want 1 day just to experience the city of Avignon. With 2 nights there, 1 day will be transiting so you won't have time to see anything else. If going to Avignon I recommend a day trip to the Pont Du Gard aqueduct, couple it with seeing Uzes nearby. You could also do a wine tour of the Cotes du Rhone Villages from here and of course Chateauneuf-du-Pape, the oldest and most prestigious appellation in France. I personally didn't care for Avignon - we used Saint-Remy-de-Provence as our home base and day tripped to Avignon - the back streets are charming but overall it's very touristy and crowded.

5 nights in Eze is probably good. It will make a good home base for day trips to Nice, Monaco, and even the Gorges du Verdon if that's your thing. I do recommend a car here, the village is not easy to access without one.

Bottom line: If you want to just say you've gone and snap your photo, then this timing is probably good. But if you want to really explore and experience a place, this isn't enough time.

I personally love France and my approach has been to focus on one area each time I go it's just too big and rich in culture and history to try and see it all in one trip. My first trip I focused on Normandy and the Loire Valley, second was the Dordogne and south through Carcassonne, the Cathar castles, and ending in Collioure. This one was all about Provence and the Cote d'Azur. I always like to start in Paris because I love that city and can't get enough of it. That's just me tho. Like I said, it really depends on how you like to travel and your interests.